Late yesterday afternoon I received an email from the Oakland Mills Village Board Co-Chairs with this announcement:
We are pleased to inform the community that County Executive Allan Kittleman has added the US 29 Pedestrian Bridge (also known as Bridge Columbia) to the County's Priority Letter submitted to Maryland State Transportation Secretary, The Honorable Pete Rahn.
Details of the project, outlined in the Priority Letter, dated August 25, 2015, request that the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) allocate funding towards the design phase to improve the present pedestrian bridge across US 29 with enhanced safety features and to improve and to incorporate transit services. The bridge provides a direct connection from Downtown Columbia to Oakland Mills. This funding request is a result of a Funding Roundtable that County Executive Kittleman convened in June with stakeholders, including representatives from MDOT.
Well. Wasn't it just last week that we were reading the Councilman Calvin Ball had written to the County Executuve asking for him to clarify his position on the Bridge and Mr. Kittleman proclaiming his "surprise" at receiving the letter? And didn't it seem that we were truly in a slump when it came to forward movement on this?
I was sitting around talking local politics the other night and the issue of Bridge Columbia didn't even come up. Now, I suppose someone there could have known this was about to go down but was honor-bound to protect the information. But I suspect that no one brought it up because no one was expecting any movement on this in the near future.
It's no secret that I am a fan of the Bridge Columbia project. I see it as a vital connection to and from an increasingly vibrant Downtown. Hats off to the Friends of Bridge Columbia who have believed in this and worked for it. Without them we wouldn't even be having this conversation. And it's no surprise that OM Village Board Co-Chairs Bill and Ginny have seized on a way to link this project with their re-invention narrative for the village.
It does surprise me that they are the ones who got to make this announcement: a late-breaking press release with their photos over the content of the letter. Why not the County Executive? Or just for fun, Mr. Kittleman and Dr. Ball together in an unexpected stab at bipartisan leadership? Indeed, how awesome it would have been if the Bridge Columbia folks had gotten to make this announcement, which, in my humble opinion, was really theirs to make?
What this announcement gets right is thanking all the right people-- Mr. Kittleman, Dr. Ball, the Bridge Columbia people. (And there's plenty of self-thanks going on, to be sure.) But I'd like to send out my personal thanks to certain individuals from the Oakland Mills community who sat down with the new leadership of the board as they came in (2014) and told them to put Bridge Columbia on their radar. Because, at that time, it wasn't. And the loss of momentum between one board and the next would certainly have damaged the chances for success.
So, "surprise"! It looks like Bridge Columbia is going places. The devil is in the details, of course. What comes on the heels of this announcement is more hard work, negotiation, and "getting things done." But I'm definitely allowing myself to get my hopes up. Not because Oakland Mills needs reinventing, because it's already awesome.
I'm excited because in Oakland Mills we value connections. And "uniting East and West Columbia with a bike, bus, and pedestrian bridge" is exactly the kind of connection that we're all about. So, cheers for the surprise. When's the party?